This book aims to provide the core of essential quotations for students and teachers of sociology. It does not pretend to be exhaustive, nor can it provide long passages of text such as those to be found in the various anthologies. The length of the quotations varies depending on the subject-matter and the style of writing. The choice of quotations has been made on the basis of several criteria: to represent the more ‘classic’ or influential writings and authors in sociology; to provide theoretical statements rather than empirical findings; to cover the key concepts and most central topics in sociology. The quotations are arranged in two sections: the first section deals with concepts and topics; the second covers some key sociological theorists who often feature in theory courses (although those same individuals may also be quoted in the first section, and are cross-referenced where appropriate).
Any choice of quotations is bound to have a subjective element, reflecting personal interests and experience, and also it is affected by a set of objective constraints, such as those of time and accessibility. I have been fortunate in being based at the Open University, which provides courses for many thousands of students throughout the world, and in having had experience of teaching or examining university students in several countries, and in different types of institutions, ranging from the University of California, Los Angeles, and Smith College, Massachusetts, to distance teaching institutions in Hong Kong. Despite the institutional and cultural differences, I hope and believe that it is possible to select a core of essential sociological quotations acceptable and useful to many students and teachers in those different institutions.
In initiating this project I am indebted to Chris Rojek, when he was at Routledge. At the Open University I have been assisted by my secretary, Molly Freeman. I would like to thank Stuart Hall, at the Open University, and Jeffrey Alexander, at UCLA, for intellectual stimulation during the course of compiling this collection.
Kenneth Thompson, 1995
The Open University, Milton Keynes